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Virgin: The Untouched History
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Virgin: The Untouched History

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,281 ratings  ·  124 reviews
Why has an indefinable state of being commanded the attention and fascination of the human race since the dawn of time? In Virgin, Hanne Blank brings us a revolutionary, rich and entertaining survey of an astonishing untouched history.
 
From the simple task of determining what constitutes its loss to why it matters to us in the first place, Blank gets to the heart of why we
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Hardcover, 290 pages
Published March 20th 2007 by Bloomsbury USA
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3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,281 ratings  ·  124 reviews


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Andrea
Jun 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I simply adore this book. The author handles the subject matter with surprising delicacy. It is the first book about this subject that I've seen that doesn't get mired in the religious dogma surrounding Virginity. I found it very informative and well-researched. Ms. Blank has a wonderful sense of humor, and the ability to make a very intimate subject comfortable. This book was a wonderfully interesting read, and I would highly recommend it to any woman curious about what it is that "Virgin" actu ...more
Kate
Aug 07, 2007 rated it liked it
Although this book was quite interesting, the research was lacking a scholarly feel. There were no footnotes or even works cited at all, just a list of "recommended reading" at the end of the book that correlated with each chapter. Made me slightly wary of anything the author was saying because lord knows where she got her "facts" from. But it was a fascinating read and hopefully more scholarly works like it will follow.
Ana
I like how this book explores the concept of virginity (with an emphasis on female virginity) in western history and culture by first dealing with the biology and the cultural construction and importance of virginity throughout history. The writing is great and I can recommend this book even to people with no knowledge of history.
Natalie
Apr 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
When I first saw this book pop up on my feed as a recommended read, I was super excited to delve in and read about the history of virginity; as while it's a topic often mentioned in media, it's not really one that is often discussed to a large degree beyond whether someone has "done it" or not, and having recently read a few books on feminism (such as The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women), I was intrigued to see how this book might handle the topic and w ...more
Natacha Pavlov
Apr 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Who isn’t interested, at least on some level, in the subject of virginity? As the author says, it’s a topic of high interest but which, as reflected in the title, has remained rather unexplored. The history, or what is known of it, spans from ancient Greece and Rome all the way to the present-day Western world, especially the United States. Some of the prominent figures discussed include Aristotle, Hippocrates, the Virgin Mary, Jesus, St. Augustine of Hippo, Queen Elizabeth I and Erzsebeth (Eliz ...more
Laura
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
An interesting collection of facts that could be improved if the author would lose her overly-academic tone of anthropological BS every once in awhile. I let loose more than a few eye rolls when a truly fascinating fact was followed by a, "Clearly, this indicates [insert wildly unsupported conclusion here]." (This was especially true of statements with a feminist tone.)

Still, it's interesting to learn that while we tend to think that virginity has been one thing since forever, and now that we ha
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Carly
I accidentally deleted this review and am so sad to report that I don't have it saved elsewhere. It was a lovely review. This is a lovely book. Forgive me!
Sam Mowry
Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was, quite simply, mind-blowing. It's hard to encompass in a single review just how much I learned about so many facets of *so many* things. First off, it's exhaustively researched, which is fantastic. I hadn't really ever thought about virginity, because no one has (this is one of the primary points of the book, that no one thinks about it to closely, and yet it's such a massive cornerstone of Western history). But it really does permeate SO MUCH of our culture and the way we think of ...more
C.S. Malerich
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
It's worth checking out the chapter on hymens (seriously -- a little understood piece of the female anatomy that I finally kinda sorta understand). There are some interesting observations that are scattered throughout as well. But my biggest problem was just that: the book feels scattered. Like a lot of cultural studies, it pulls from some very diverse sources and media (and that's all fine), but the author needs to find a strong narrative thread or argument to tie it all together, and this book ...more
Chris
Jun 21, 2009 rated it it was ok
The author complains of the limitations of space several times in the book but nevertheless can digress into what feels like too much of the minutiae of medieval politics. There are some interesting insights, such as how the distrust of (women's) sexuality and the body by the Catholic Church made the Protestant Reformation seem more practical. Ultimately the story is really about women and how their virginity was valuable in marriage, which many argue has for most of history been an economic rat ...more
Linnea
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Virginity is an abstract, but an abstract so meaningful to the way we have organized our Western cultures that we have arranged lives around it, built it into our religions, our laws, our definitions of marriage, and our ways of organizing families, and woven it into our very concepts of identity and self."

First of all, this book is really funny while still being a thoughtful analysis of virginity and the (female) bodies attached to it. _Virgin_ focuses on virginity within the heterosexual cont
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Cyndie
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
A fascinating book I couldn't put down. Makes you think about virginity and sexuality from perspectives you couldn't dream of.

Did you know that some animals spontaneously dissolve and regrow their hymens on a regular basis? That there are 4 different types of hymen? That what we typically think of when we think of the hymen is actually a birth defect? That humans couldn't agree on whether the hymen actually existed or not until the 1500s?

It makes you think about the commoditization of sexuality
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Kathleen
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, nonfiction, 2013
An exceptional book. I was much more intrigued by this book than I expected to be, and on completing it, I can't believe I ever doubted it. Blank presents an impeccably researched and compellingly written socio-political and medical-scientific examination of the state and concept of virginity, with meditations on the repercussions virginity or lack thereof has had on women through the ages. She also states the limitations of her research, a habit I find endearing in any historian.

This book does
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Zack
Jul 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
Felt like something an undergrad would slap together after procrastinating all semester on a final paper. Just much longer. No real citations of any kind. Some jumps in logic from the author "X happened. This was because these people thought Y and Z" and the connection wasn't always obvious. Oh well.
Janet
Jun 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Smart, well researched, easy to read academic book on the history of virginity and its meaning. Contains fascinating historical tidbits, like determining the virginity of a young woman by examining the circumference of her neck.
Carl Stevens
Mar 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Novelists need to know virgins.
Simone Nelson
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism
The ideology of virginity permeates our culture - with the very lives and bodies of countless women hanging in the balance - yet few people can actually identify what makes one a "virgin" and one a "non-virgin". Is virginity biologically observable? Can you "lose it" without the involvement of a penetrating penis? Or perhaps even without the involvement of a partner? Doesn't it even really exist? As it turns out, Regina George wasn't so stupid when she proclaimed "I was a half a virgin when I me ...more
Christine
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don't give 5 star reviews often, and at times throughout the book I contemplated giving it 4 stars instead, but ultimately it's deserving of the 5 stars because it was very thoroughly researched, it provides information from a historical, religious, and political POV, and acknowledges its limitations both at the beginning and the end of the book.

In the epilogue on page 256 Blank writes, "Anthropologists and historians have made only rare attempts to study virginity, and their attempts provide
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Leigh Kramer
May 07, 2017 rated it liked it
While this was a little dryer than I would have liked, this book was packed full of interesting insights about virginity as a gendered construct. It's worth reading for the chapter on hymens alone. In fact, if you write books with sex scenes or know someone who does, it should be required reading. Blank also includes a variety of stories over time ranging from inspiring to horrifying. The final chapter, which focused on pop culture examples and the ways sex education has changed over time, was t ...more
Anna
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially to women and anyone interested in gender studies, history, sociology, etc. We are bombarded with so many cultural messages about sexuality these days, with little to no historical context. It was very eye-opening to read this book and learn about how (female) virginity has been understood and valued differently in different time periods. (Note: This books focuses on Western history - I would love to see further exploration of this subject th ...more
Paula
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I definitely believe that this book should be in every possible library and read by as many people as possible. It is an important resource not only for understanding the history behind the idea of virginity and virgins, but the lasting effects of these (often erroneous) beliefs. A must read, especially for those interested in cultural history, anthropology, feminism, or who is simply looking to expand their sexual knowledge.
Megara 🧿
May 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Okay, thanks for the selected bibliography at the end, but where are the in-text works cited? I spent half my time reading this book wondering, “Where did you get that information?”

That being said, a book discussing virginity is long overdue and I appreciate Blank’s efforts to compile an accessible survey of the topic(s) covered.
Patricia
Jan 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult, history
This was pretty interesting, and I definitely learned some things.
Rebekka Steg
Virgin: The Untouched History by Hanne Blank is a fascinating look at how we see virginity, and how virginity has been viewed throughout history and in different cultures.

Humans are the only species that care about virginity - although we are not the only species with a hymen. Even then, virginity cannot be defined and there are no guaranteed way to see if someone is a virgin or not. The only thing that's sure is that we are all different. The question of virginity has been one way to keep women
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Rebecca
Jun 17, 2008 rated it liked it
Hanne Blank's research is impeccable. She explains the incredible physiological variability of the hymen, how its variability is obscured by ancient and modern deflowering traditions, and the emergence of a shadow market in artifacts to simulate the gold standard of virginity loss (i.e., a bloody mess). From there, she sweeps across Western history and mythology, surveying how virginity was (and is) employed to reinforce cultural norms, economic systems, and religious ideals, and to both subjuga ...more
Penelope
It literally took me months to finish this book. I renewed it the max number of times and eventually had to return it and take it back out from the library (I mean, come on, I just had to finish those last 50 pages). So, this isn't really the kind of book that sucks you in and before you know it you've reached the end. But it's also not a "difficult" read, or an excessively scholarly read either. I just found it...slow--interesting, but slow.

My perception of what virginity is and what it means i
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Natalie
Sep 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: women, feminists, men who still subscribe to sexual double standards
So it's probably no surprise to most people that women have been valued for most of recorded history based on sexuality alone, or lack thereof. Still, seeing the timeline of this history and the paradigmatic shifts it's undergone is a bit overwhelming; and even though American culture has had several sexual revolutions, major and minor, since the early twentieth century, the value-laden (and intrinsically meaningless, without the value that society places upon it) status of women as virgins is s ...more
Rachel
An elegantly written and accessible survey of the concept of virginity -- particularly female heterosexual virginity, which Blank rightly identifies as being what is usually meant when the term is used without qualification -- in western history and culture. The first half of the book is all about hymens. Okay, no, it isn't really, but it's about the physical or medical details of virginity, and ultimately about the fact that there's no such thing as virginity; that is, there is no definable bod ...more
B. Rule
I found this to be a pretty interesting cultural history. It doesn't quite have the chops for a scholarly treatment and it's not quite as fun as some pop cultural analysis books, but the topic is fascinating. While the writing is at times a little repetitive and Blank spends a lot of time talking about all the details that could fill volumes rather than, you know, actually filling this volume, she manages to hit on several really interesting revolutions in the ways that Western culture has treat ...more
Patty
When I mentioned to friends that I was reading this book, one of them started railing about the fact that academia and the tenure process had caused too much research in esoteric areas of history. I sort of scoffed and said that this book was interesting and sometimes these micro-histories were fun to read.

Well, having finished this history, I am probably in agreement with my friend. This book started out with facts that were new to me and I liked the author's style. However, after awhile, I sta
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Hanne Blank is a writer and historian.
Periodicals which have featured her work include Penthouse, In These Times, Southwest Art, Lilith, Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, the Baltimore CityPaper, the Boston Phoenix, Santa Fean Magazine, and others. Her short fiction and essays are frequently anthologized.

Ms. Blank's work has been reviewed in The New York Times, The Chicago Sun-Times, The W
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“Defining virginity means directly affecting the lives of nearly all women, and many men as well. Despite what some people appear to think, defining virginity is not merely a philosophical exercise. It is an exercise in controlling how people behave, feel, and think, and in some cases, whether they live or die.” 3 likes
“Women's issues, and particularly issues pertaining to women's sexual and reproductive lives, are routinely pushed to the bottom of international political and social agendas” 0 likes
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